Equality rally crowds Customhouse steps in Charleston

“We are straight allies,” said Katie Charles (left) and her mother Laurie Charles on the Customhouse steps supporting marriage equality Monday before the U.S. Supreme Court begins hearing the cases on gay marriage. Buy this photo

The mood was mellow. These were people with a sense their time may have come.

A crowd of a few hundred filled the U.S. Customhouse steps Monday to rally in support of marriage equality, on the evening before the U.S. Supreme Court began hearing the two cases on the issue.

They took turns signing cards supporting the cause, to be delivered to Chief Justice John Roberts. The rally was one of 700 being staged across the country.

They were young and old, female and male, gay and straight. They brought their children and their dogs.

The people passing on East Bay Street were curious, not hostile. Nobody protested against the rally or the laws.

“Tonight we stand on the steps of the Customhouse to ask that all Americans be treated the same, to have the right to marry the person they love,” Jeremy Rutledge, Circular Congregational Church minister, told the crowd to exuberant cheers.

Walking by on the street, Katherine and William Childers, on vacation from Salisbury, N.C., weren’t disconcerted.

“To each his own,” Katherine Childers said. William Childers said he did have questions whether it is completely fair to children to be raised in a same-sex marriage, but he wasn’t concerned about marriage for same sex couples.

“They should be happy,” he said.

On the steps, rally participants talked of an evolution of attitudes among friends and the community.

Sarah Ragsdale and Mina Familar, of Charleston, took turns holding Stella, a schnauzer-Shih tzu mix, who wore a sign saying “Stella has two mommies.”

“We’ve been together since 1996, and we want to get married legally,” Ragsdale said.

Not far away, Susan and Darrell Doane, of Summerton, came from attending a bitter child custody hearing that involved the couple’s adult daughter; an issue is whether the daughter and her girlfriend qualify as a couple.

“We’re here because everybody should have the same rights as me,” Susan Doane said. “That’s what we fought wars for.”

A half-hour into the rally, people were still coming, hurrying across East Bay just to get there, some grabbing each other’s hand.

Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744, @bopete on twitter or Bo Petersen Reporting on Facebook.

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